Accusations and resignations mark School Board Meeting

By Sarah Pridgeon

This month’s Crook County School Board meeting was attended by a number of concerned teachers and parents wishing to address the board regarding several perceived issues with administration. An audience of around 100 community members was present to bring these problems to the attention of the board.

Chairman Todd McInerney, before the floor was opened to visitors, addressed the audience with an adamant statement.

“There’s not a single person up here who’s plotting against you. We are you – we’re your neighbors and friends and people you see every day on the street – but, as board members, there are policies we must abide by and by law there is some information we can’t share with you,” he stated. “You have the right to be disappointed in our decisions, but not to attack an individual board member.”

Angie Svoboda, parent of a child attending Hulett School, was the first to speak. “I hope you haven’t been aware of what’s been happening, and that’s why no action has been taken,” she said, going on to explain her concerns over bullying at the school and questioning, “Why would any school district go above and beyond to defend a member of staff known to be abusing children?”

Svoboda asked the board why she was not allowed to “name names” when the board regularly gives kudos to individuals for positive behavior.  Free speech should work both ways, she commented.

She claimed that she had been forced to remove her child from a particular class because the teacher called him inappropriate names and bullied him. “I pray we don’t have to wait until a tragedy happens before we can ask for change,” she concluded.

McInerney, in response, told Svoboda he would request that the issue be discussed in executive session and invited her to attend to answer any questions the board may have. “By law we cannot discuss personnel in an open forum, but we understand the gravity of the situation,” he said.

Amy Boswell took the floor to discuss treatment of her son, who suffers from ADHD and has been attending Hulett School. According to Boswell, despite her attempts to help with suggestions on how to handle his condition and provision of materials to aid the teachers, her son has been labeled a “bad” kid by the teachers.

“Students recognize who the ‘bad’ kids are and bully them,” she continued. “Why wouldn’t they, when they have a teacher showing them how?”

Boswell told the board that her son was punched twice by students, has withdrawn from other children and now “refers to himself as stupid.”

She confirmed that he will not be returning to the school in the fall and criticized the teachers for being unwilling to work on improving his school experience.

Josie Pearson stood before the board to officially resign as librarian of Sundance Elementary. She explained that she feels “some policies have not been observed” and that she can no longer work in a school district which, in her words was lacking in morals and ethics.

Pearson outlined which policies she believes are in question, including those to render all decisions based on all available facts and to promote the general welfare of the staff. She expressed disappointment in the loss of Mrs. Kathy Hood, stating that she was “a valuable asset” but that “I feel the way she was treated was harassment and bullying.”